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Dr. James J. “Jim” Michels, 93, of Spicer MN, died on January 30, 2020, at Banner Del Webb Medical Center in Sun City West, AZ, after a long, vigorous, humor-filled, memorable life. A Celebration of Jim’s Life will be held on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. with visitation beginning two hours prior to the time of service at Our Lady of the Lakes Church. A boxed luncheon will follow the ceremony at The Oaks in Willmar, with extra safety precautions in place to mind social distancing. Memorials are suggested to Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in Spicer MN, Carris Health/Rice Hospice of Willmar or Our Living Water Catholic Area Faith Community (St. Mary’s and Our Lady of the Lakes Churches). Arrangements are with Peterson Brothers Funeral Home in Willmar. www.petersonbrothers.com
Jim was born in Willmar, Minnesota on January 25, 1927, to Leo and Mary (Buttweiler) Michels. He excelled in academics, leadership and sports at Willmar High School until, at age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he served as a medic during his tenure. After his honorable discharge, Jim graduated from St. John’s University in Collegeville MN and the University of MN Dental School. His first dental practice was in New London, MN, followed by his practice in Willmar, MN. Later, he returned to the U of MN to receive additional training in orthodontia and became one of the first two dentists in the West Central MN area to perform orthodontia along with his general dentistry work. He was influential in bringing the importance of fluoride in oral hygiene care to the public’s attention.
Jim married Florence “Minnie” Minnehan in 1952; they were the parents of seven children, all the prides of Jim and Minnie’s lives. Minnie died in 2001 after a long battle with lymphoma. Jim married Colleen Donahue Thompson in 2002, and they spent many retirement years enjoying the sunshine and warmth of Arizona and the great beauty of Minnesota.
Jim was a community servant in many arenas. His leadership will be remembered by the MN and West Central MN Dental Associations, the Willmar Area Community Foundation, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center, Southwest Initiative Foundation, the Lakes Area Preservation Society, Henderson Lake Association, St. Mary’s Education Board, Eucharistic Ministry, Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever. He was personally rewarded by his role as a Rice Hospice Volunteer, which he did for twenty-five years helping over eighty patients.
He had diverse interests and hobbies: gardening, wood carving, rosemaling, poetry, bug collecting, canning, construction, building World War II model airplanes, and hosting international visitors. He hunted, fished and golfed into his late eighties. However, the most important and cherished parts of his life were his roles as husband, father, step-father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend. For his family, there was abundant love, a strict firmness, emphasis on caring for others, adventure, travel, compassion, steadfastness, and an indomitable sense of humor that permeated his soul and brought joy to all who knew and loved him. That humor was with him until his very last day.
Jim is survived by his wife Colleen; his children, Maureen (Joe) Zuffoletto, Steven (Jacque) Michels, Richard (Jacqui Dorsey) Michels, Robert (Stacey) Michels, Kelly Michels, Christine (Dr. John) Stageberg; his stepchildren, Eileen (Dr. Thomas) Armitage and Daniel Thompson; his grandchildren, Michel (Jody) Silvestri, Victoria (Ryan) Meyers, Maureen and Jameson Michels, Elizabeth, Gabrielle and William Stageberg; his step-grandchildren, Devin (Adam) Tomczik, Brandyn Mowat, Isaac, Nils and Cole Armitage; and his great grandchildren, Michel Silvestri II, Georgia Meyers, Theodore and Rowan Tomczik. Also surviving is his beloved sister, Betty Elkjer, besides many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Minnie; his infant son, Patrick; his parents, Leo and Mary Michels; his stepmother, Ethel Michels; and his brother, Dr. Roger Michels.
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